I’ve learned two absolute truths since becoming a parent. First, children grow up too quickly, and second, my memory fails too frequently. When you put both of those together, it’s obvious that I need a video camera to record the first steps, the sweet baby jabberings, and the countless random and clever childish goings-on.
Last year at Christmas we received exactly what we needed-- a small digital recorder, a far cry from the bulky shoulder-mounted machines of my youth. My husband tried it out for the first time when he took the children sled-riding.
Although I stayed home with the napping babies, I was able to see a sampling of sledding spills and victories. I saw out-of-control sleds heading for trees, sledless children sliding on their own bottoms down the ice-glazed hill, and what seemed to be the longest sled ride ever in the history of childhood.
From the comfort of the couch, my ears heard the giggles and later the inevitable complaints of tired children. The sled was too fast or too scary, or they just couldn’t make it back up the big hill.
Without a doubt, the most important thing the camera recorded was The Promise. My daughter was crying that she wanted her own sled, and her dear sympathetic father promised that he would buy her one for Christmas next year. Each time the children insisted we watch the video throughout the year, we were reminded of The Promise, and I was certain that, come Christmas, we would forget.
Amazingly, a few weeks ago when we made our big list and checked it twice, we remembered The Promise. My husband ordered a sled, and soon it was delivered and stored safely in a box in our garage.
Then one busy morning last week, in the midst of nagging children to brush teeth and changing a diaper, I noticed my two daughters were quiet. Too quiet. I called out for them and heard them come inside from the garage, which was no big deal until I overheard the five-year-old whisper to her little sister, “Don’t tell Mommy or Daddy.”
They were up to no good, and within minutes the 2-year-old spilled the beans-- Daddy had bought her sister a yellow sled. She knew this because they had peaked through a tear in the cardboard box in the garage.
Now, I know that really super parents have hard and fast rules enforced by clear and consistent consequences. Unfortunately, we’re not super-parents, but from the beginning of our family, because of my own nosiness, we have had The Rule about peaking at presents. The Rule is often repeated so that it is clear for all: if you sneak a peak, the present goes back.
In ten plus years, we’d not once been called out on The Rule. Sure, there may have been an instance or two that a child happened upon a gift accidentally or we perhaps left something unhidden, but not once had we uncovered an out-and-out sneak, peak, and cover-up operation.
We were stuck between The Promise and The Rule. What should we do? On one hand, returning the sled seemed excessively mean. On the other hand, keeping the sled would teach our children that rules mean nothing and that their parents were total pushovers.
We sat the culprit on Daddy’s lap for a big talk. We asked her if she knew The Rule. She did, and she hung her head, duly ashamed. And since we still weren’t certain what we would do, we did the most un-super-parent thing possible--we asked the child what we should do.
Our daughter replied meekly but stoically, “You should return the sled.”
Yes! She got it! She understood the importance of being consistent with discipline. How grown-up of her! Our job was going to be much easier than expected.
But she continued, “You should return the sled because yellow is my least favorite color. Well, really yellow and white, so you should buy a sled for me that is any other color than those two.”
Please allow me to add a third absolute truth I’ve learned--parenting is never easy.
It used to be that making tapioca pudding wasn’t ever easy for me. I had racked up a few failures, not getting the consistency right with ugly lumps and a bit of scorching involved. Then my mother changed all that by sending me this recipe for the crock-pot. Although some children may shy away from the look of tapioca, it is a fairly healthy dessert, especially if you use only half the sugar like we do.
Crock-pot Tapioca Pudding
2 quarts milk
1 cup sugar (or less, if you prefer)
1 cup pearl tapioca
4 eggs, whipped
1 tsp. vanilla
Pour milk, sugar, and 1 cup pearl tapioca in crock-pot, stir a little, put the lid on, turn to high, and cook 3 hours. Then take a ladle of this (about 1/2 cup or so) from the crock pot and pour it into a bowl. Add the whipped eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla and combine.